In February of 1990, Barack Obama was the first black person elected to head the Harvard Law Review. The presidency of the Review is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

It’s therefore fitting that in his final days as the first black person to hold the highest office in the United States, Barack Obama has gone back to his roots by publishing a piece in the Harvard Law Review. His essay is called The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform and was published on January 5, 2017.

The article is many things. It’s well written and it’s footnoted so you never have any doubts as to where Obama is getting his facts from or whether he’s making them up. It puts faith in you as a reader because there’s never a word wasted. On the other hand it also requires you to do some visual acrobatics because his sources are cited within the text, requiring you to skip over the citations to read the rest of what he’s saying.

His piece is also a little self-aggrandizing, but unlike the incoming president, all the things Obama says are substantiated by facts. He highlights his tackling of racial profiling as a legislator in Illinois and all sources indicate that he did just that.

In 1999 he proposed a bill against racial profiling after hearing that police were pulling over drivers simply for being black. When the bill failed, he revised and reintroduced it over and over again until it passed in 2003, making a point of publicly saying that “race and ethnicity is not an indicator of criminal activity.”

He also mentioned pushing for the videotaping of police interrogations as a requirement for interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. A measure he helped to pass in Illinois.

Chart from the Harvard Law Review essay

As President, he used his power of clemency to pardon or reduce the sentences of 231 people, many of whom had been punished for minor, non-violent drug crimes under tough anti-drug laws. The impact of this gesture is huge, for unlike other pardons, presidential ones wipe away the legal consequences of previous criminal convictions.

Obama hints at his frustrations battling a Republican Congress determined to undermine him during his presidency. Though he successfully passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of crack cocaine thus reducing excessive punishments imposed on people of colour, he had no such luck with the Smarter Sentencing Act.

The Smarter Sentencing Act was a bipartisan – meaning supported by both Democrats and Republicans – bill that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses from twenty years to ten, and given judges greater discretion regarding whether or not to impose said sentences.

Despite support across party lines, many Republicans were skeptical of the bill and it never made it to the floor of Congress. The same happened with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a law that would have reduced more mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and offered credits to prisoners who participate in rehabilitation programs. The Republicans tabled that one to death in November 2015.

Despite Obama’s frustrations with Congress in his attempts to pass progressive criminal justice reform, he constantly highlights his respect and faith in the American people and the rule of law.

In a none-too-subtle warning to the incoming president, Obama writes that the President “does not and should not decide who or what to investigate or prosecute.” He praises red states like Georgia, Texas and Alabama for reducing sentences and investing the money saved on incarceration in other public safety programs that help those affected by mental illness and substance abuse, many of whom had previously ended up in jail.

At the same time Obama highlights all the problems with the American Justice System: the systemic racism, overly harsh penalties for non-violent offenses, the excessive use of solitary confinement, and the economic problems caused by the US’ excessive use of incarceration. He points out that the US incarcerates 25% of its population and that the cost of maintaining so many prisons and the people within it is both “unnecessary and unsustainable.”

Though Democrats are widely accused of being fiscally irresponsible, it’s Republicans that always seem to be pushing for harsher penalties that increase the American prison population, thus straining state and national budgets regardless of whether or not it makes people safer. Obama quotes Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who pointed out in November 2016 that every dollar spent on excessive sentences is “a dollar we don’t have for investigating emerging threats, from hackers to home grown terrorists,” a point that is especially relevant amidst widespread acknowledgement that the Russian government hacked the election to get an orange bigot into office.

Obama’s article reflects his awareness of the higher standard he was constantly being held to. In America people still seem to expect women and visible and sexual minorities and younger people to perform worse than middle aged white men at the same jobs, no matter how despicable and lazy individuals of the latter are.

Though the United States has less unemployment, a decreased federal prison population, and more people with health care due to Obama’s efforts, entitled rich white men are still questioning whether or not he was a good president. Obama clearly knows that he had to be beyond reproach during his time in office and while he did not achieve all he had promised – Guantanamo Bay has yet to be closed, for example – as a president he came pretty close despite all obstacles.

Regardless of what Barack Obama did or did not achieve, the one thing to take from his article is a warning that all the good that he did in his attempt to do right by the American people is in danger of being undone when a racist misogynist Russian puppet takes office on January 20, 2017.

I am an artist, I have been involved with and gone to a lot of art openings. It takes a lot of tedious work to curate and hang, to prepare, to get everything ready for public consumption.

The artist bares it all, it is terrifying, even if you are confident in your work. It is the culmination of months or years of dedication to your subject matter, it is who you are. One does not make art: you give birth to art.

Art openings are supposed to be a celebration of investigation, of the audience questioning and discerning for themselves. Usually they involve looking at art, some contemplation, maybe a paragraph on the wall to read, and oh yeah, wine, lots of wine and frivolity.

Recently I went to several openings, and noticed that I was being just another shitty hipster. I was drinking and laughing while a powerful black woman was literally hanging by her hair. I was white privilege incarnate, I was wrong.

The realization that I was part of the problem forever changed my attitude towards the current state of the art world, and made me look inside myself. Admitting you are wrong is only a small step.

Art is about expression, it is connection, it is the artist figuring out a way into the viewer’s soul. It is a shared experience, it is the extreme beauty and abject darkness made into “stuff” for us to be affected by. Art is what we feel, it is the heartbeat of the universe.

Art does not lie, it doesn’t know how. Are we just afraid of reality? Have I been so bound in my own small world that I did not know I was being just like every other asshole who didn’t pay attention? Apathy is evil.

My friend bared her soul, she spoke of a black woman’s relationship to her hair, and how a Eurocentric society has pressured her and her family to be forever. They conformed to survive, and were forced to abandon their culture and natural state of being to fit in with those who oppressed them, people who look just like me.

I do not want to be the oppressor, but it was happening. It was not until her boyfriend said “finale” that I finally went into the room, I finally listened. Standing in shame in front of her opus. What kind of woman lets another woman suffer alone?

Art is not just another opportunity to jerk ourselves off or flaunt our coolness. Go to an art opening to be with the art, respect the artist by giving your full attention.

The snacks are there but they are not everything. Yea, vegan cat shaped pizzas are fun, and sometimes art is fun, but other times it is serious.

The complimentary wine doesn’t mean stop looking, it doesn’t mean stop noticing or questioning. Art is not an excuse for social fuckery. Get drunk with ideas.

We are lost, using art for social gain instead of intellectual growth. You must actually show up to make a difference, be present in your community and pay attention to the world at large.

YES, it matters that atrocities are happening all over the world (and right here) while we sit here and complain about nonsense. Art is a record of that suffering, it is a shared feeling, we are transported to a moment or a dream when we view art. Ir is more than just looking, it should be a full all encompassing experience.

A look at my own art made me realize that even though I try to be woke to the evils of the world I still generalize, I still only touch the tip of being political. Art is direct action! Who am I fighting for?

I am not using this opportunity to say something. I need to stop making pretty things and start making change. We are on the verge of an apocalypse and we must actively be there for each other.

Use your power to give voices to the voiceless, a platform to stand on. Never objectify another’s experience by misrepresenting them or speaking for them.

I want this to be a public apology to every artist and subject I have ever disrespected. I promise to pay closer attention and think critically about the art I encounter and make from here on out. I will no longer shuffle off in ignorance, I will be there in silent solidarity. I will give you center stage. I will learn what you are teaching and immerse myself in your ideas.

Art is bigger than us, it is immortal, a record of the current (soon to be past) or already gone. Make art everyday, live it, and become it. Take this time to be present with me and let’s change the world.

 

 

 

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been in the news a lot recently. This past December, they outraged Canadians by backtracking on a promise to reveal to a Senate Committee how many journalists they’ve spied on in the past, citing “operational security”.

Whenever the issue of terrorism or Bill C-51 comes up, CSIS is always mentioned. With all the talk about the organization, it’s time Canadians knew what they’re all about.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is informally known as Canada’s spy agency. Created in 1984 with the passing of the CSIS Act in the aftermath of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Quebec’s first sovereignty referendum, its official role is to investigate threats to Canadian security.

As per the CSIS Act, the following are considered threats to Canadian security:

  • Espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage.
  • Foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person.
  • Activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state.
  • Activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

Lawful protests, advocacy, and dissent are not considered threats to Canadian security as per the Act unless they are accompanied by the acts listed above.

CSIS is headed by a Director who is named by the Governor in Council – the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, for a five year renewable term. As per the CSIS Act, no director can serve for more than ten years, a measure undoubtedly put in place to prevent corruption.

The current director of CSIS is Michel Coulombe, a former intelligence agent who was appointed by the Harper Government in 2013. He controls and manages and CSIS and all matters connected with it and he and his proxy are in charge of hiring CSIS employees.

Considering a Career?

While the RCMP has a long list of base qualifications such as health and psychological standards, visual and auditory acuity, and official language proficiency. CSIS’ requirements for employment seem much shorter and simpler.

In order to be considered for a position with CSIS, you need to be a Canadian Citizen eligible for Top Secret Security Clearance, have ten years’ worth of viable information – something that undoubtedly refers to employment, health, social services and financial records so you can be properly traced and vetted and have a valid permanent Canadian driver’s license for some posts. Detailed descriptions of various positions on CSIS’ careers’ website give greater insight into what’s needed to work for them.

Intelligence Officers are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree, three years of relevant experience, and be knowledgeable in the Service’s mandate and Canadian security threats as well as current events. They need to be good communicators verbally and in writing, analytical, adaptable, and sensitive to Canadian cultural mores – whatever those are, the website does not specify.

They also need to be willing to relocate anywhere in Canada or abroad depending on CSIS’ needs, be willing to travel and work irregular hours, and be without a criminal record. Though the CSIS doesn’t require bilingualism, knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset.

Duties, Functions and Limits

The specific duties and functions of CSIS are set out primarily in the CSIS Act. Their primary role is intelligence collection and analysis, security screenings, and reducing threats to Canadian Security. Though the organization is widely perceived to be without limits, the law has many safeguards to keep it from overstepping its bounds.

Any measures taken by CSIS to reduce threats have to be proportional and reasonable to the nature of the threat as per the “reasonable availability of other means” to reduce it. They cannot take said measures if they will contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other law. There is an exception to this rule, but it requires a warrant from a Federal Court.

CSIS is not allowed to cause death or bodily harm either intentionally or by criminal negligence. They are not allowed to obstruct, pervert, or otherwise impede the course of justice, and they cannot violate the sexual integrity of a person.

While CSIS can provide security assessments to the government, they cannot do so willy nilly. They are only permitted to provide security assessments with the permission of the Federal Public Security Minister, and if they want to provide provinces with assessments, that is only with the consent of the provincial governments.

Whenever CSIS gets in trouble they always claim there’s nothing wrong with what they do or refuse to do because of all the safeguards in place to prevent abuses. The problem is that because the organization slips beneath the radar of the average citizen, no one ever bothers to check how strictly CSIS’ safeguards are enforced.

With our neighbors to the south slowly slipping into the depths of hell, it’s time Canada checked itself and our agents to ensure our continued place as the world’s sober voice of liberal democracy and freedom.

* Featured image of CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa from dailytech.com

So it finally happens, I meet someone who is brilliant and beautiful, funny, sweet, and holy shit INTERESTED IN ME. We talk all night, maybe even share an innocent kiss, and exchange numbers. I am excited for the first time in months.

Then BOOM, I do a teenie bit of Facebook stalking through our one mutual friend just to find out that they have a girlfriend. Dude, we live in a place and time where it seems that everyone is polyamorous. There is no need to lie to me or be unfaithful to your partner.

You have to be honest, and if you are poly but your partner is not, that throws a big curve ball into the situation. Perhaps rethink your monogamous relationship before bringing someone else into your shit. I have never cheated on someone I was dating.

My friend has gone through the same situation time and time again. After just ending a relationship where her mate came out as having a pregnant girlfriend at home, you would think her luck would get better. The next person she sleeps with is a good friend, who happens to be in an unhappy relationship that he won’t end. She then meets a handsome man at work, he flirts hard, they exchange info because he expressed interest in her show later that night.

Pretty quickly in he says that he has a girlfriend, he is “disappointed that he has a girlfriend,” waaaait, what? HE is disappointed? Then dump her and live your life! Don’t ever be with someone you are disappointed to be with, it’s not fair to her or you. My friend backed off on the conversation only to be textually bombarded by this same guy drunk a few days later begging her to come fuck him.

NO! Not allowed to do that. How dirty and second rate do you think she feels now? Gross bro, just stop.

I have another friend who knowingly had an affair with a married man. Now she feels like that’s the only people she attracts. It is definitely not her goal, she wants love like anyone else. Like they smell the mistress vibe on her or something. There is something about that, wanting to be with someone with no strings, knowing that they will never want more from you but the secret triste that is keeping them hard.

Often the mistress will get the best parts of their lover, they get the fantasy, the sex without the problems. They will also never get the support or companionship of a real relationship, but if that’s what you are looking for, it might be an ideal situation for you.

I remember hooking up with a guy I met on the internet a few years ago. We went on a few dates, he was so great, a poet, a musician, and a fun human. I called him “Big Jon” so you know the sex was amazing.

He must have written 100 poems about how beautiful I was in the short time we were together, I was smitten. He admitted to driving the wrong way on one way streets to get to my house sooner, he carried my bags and held the door for me. A total gentleman, until one night the truth came out.

After a session he said “I don’t want to smell like woman.” What? We just had sex, what to you expect to smell like? Flowers?

I asked him why and he said he didn’t want his wife to know about us. It must have been the whiskey and weed that made him so honest that night. It was the last time I ever saw him, I am NOBODY’S secret side bitch.

I actually did run into him in a dollar store maybe two months later. He had his son in the cart and a small, beautiful, tattooed woman with him putting stuff in the cart that I assume was his wife. They looked like a happy, functioning family.

I saw the panic in his eyes but just kept on walking without even acknowledging his existence. I am no home wrecker.

It’s a shock that people actually lie on online dating profiles, right? You know the guy who says he is 6’1 and single is probably 5’8 and married. There is no need to lie on these things, people are looking for all kinds of hook ups.

There are  websites dedicated to cheaters. Cheat with other cheaters! That’s a killer concept.

About a month ago I was at my favorite local watering hole when I saw man I had never seen before. He was beautiful, we danced, we chatted. He was a children’s book author!

I was in heaven, he touched my butt and kissed me and I thought, wow, finally an artist! Then all of a sudden he just said he couldn’t do this, no explanation.

I remembered the name of one of his books and googled him when I got home. He is married. Of course him and his wife write books together about their kids. Makes sense.

I do not accept being hidden in the shadows. You love me fully and out loud or you can’t have me at all. I am open to being with a polyamorous partner but have not successfully done so. I want to think that I can be open and communicate my needs, but it is not simple.

I know myself, I am passionate, I am all or nothing. I really want to be in love. I want to take care of someone, I want a human to love me, I want to be their serenity, I want to travel the world with someone who is proud to be with me.

Being single, I do have an active sexual lifestyle. I know I can get laid every day of the week if I really wanted to, but I don’t because I have respect for myself. I know that some people just want to get off and run.

Being single and beautiful makes me a target for assholes who put their wedding rings in their pocket on a Saturday night.

Married folks might be bored and I am certainly exciting. These people are looking for validation, they are looking for excitement, something that can often times be lost in long term relationships.

My availability is NOT an invitation. Just because I am single and looking does not mean I am looking for you, asshole. There is no burly football player boyfriend looming over me saying hands off buck, just lil ol me and my shining smile alone in the world.

I have learned to just hold out for what I want and never accept less. I will not compromise my morals for my libido. I will never knowingly take part in breaking up a relationship or marginalizing my own needs.

Maybe I should stop looking for love at bars? Or just come to terms with the fact that it seems most people over 30 are taken. Sadly, there is no way to safeguard yourself from these advances. Assholes happen, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

We all deserve nothing but the best even though we must swim through a stream of shit to get there.

The holidays are finally over.

It started for most of us with a nerve-racking family dinner and ended with a New Year’s Eve party where we drank away the stress of having to spend too much time with our relatives. Many of us spent the eve of the New Year drunk and partying and it’s likely that at least a third of us engaged in some kind of behavior that night that we now regret. Most of this is not blackmail-worthy, but in a world where lives are ruined by crimes like revenge porn, it’s important to know what laws are in place to protect us.

Revenge porn is the publication of explicit images, videos, or films of a person without consent in a situation where the victim would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Though revenge porn at its root is used to cause the victim distress, it’s often redistributed by some porn sites for commercial gain.

Fortunately, Canadian law is on it and has been working to tackle this crime.

Before 2014 the people in Canada who distributed intimate photos or videos of others without their consent could only be charged under the Criminal Code’s provisions on voyeurism, extortion, obscene publications, criminal harassment, defamatory libel, and in some cases child pornography. Unfortunately these laws have very specific requirements to get an indictment and conviction.

For example, extortion requires that the intimate material be used as a threat to force the victim to do something. Criminal harassment requires that the conduct make the victim fear for their safety or the safety of a loved one.

Sometimes charging people under these offenses worked, and sometimes it did not.

The people who drove Rehtaeh Parsons, a Halifax teen, to suicide in 2013 were charged with the distribution of child pornography. Parsons hung herself after photos of her being sexually assaulted by four boys circulated through her school resulting in texts and Facebook messages calling her a slut and soliciting her for sex.

Though none of the boys who assaulted her were charged with rape due to insufficient evidence, two of her attackers who filmed her later pled guilty to child pornography charges and were put on probation. Many agree this is hardly a sufficient punishment for people who drove an innocent young woman to her death.

Fortunately in 2014 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to include article 162.1 regarding the unlawful publication of intimate images without consent.

It defines intimate images as a photo, film, or video where the victim is nude, exposing their genitalia, anal region, or breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity in circumstances where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A trip to the bathroom to use the toilet or shower is an obvious example of circumstances where most people would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The new law says that everyone “who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty.”

That means that it doesn’t matter whether the person transmitting the image or video intended to cause the victim harm. All the crime requires is that the person knowingly made the material available and they either knew or were aware of the possibility that the image or video was taken without the victim’s consent and distributed it anyway.

Those guilty of this offense are looking at a maximum prison term of five years. Or if they get a summary conviction, a maximum of six months in jail and/or a two thousand dollar fine.

The law limits the kinds of defenses one can use against such a charge. The motives of the accused are considered irrelevant. The only way to get out of a charge under this law is to either prove you didn’t do it, or prove that your conduct somehow served the public good but did not go beyond the minimum required to do so.

This defense was clearly added to the law to protect journalists and investigators in the execution of their professions. A journalist who snaps and distributes a photo of a politician with a sex worker when the politician is anti-prostitution could find himself charged under this act, but could conceivably argue that his actions were for the good of the public and not excessive.

If criminal charges are not laid in the face of the distribution of a person’s intimate images, in Quebec you can always sue the distributor.

The Quebec Civil Code (“the Code”) guarantees the individual right to privacy and protects people from invasions of their privacy without their consent.

As per the Code, the following are particularly considered invasions of privacy:

  • Entering your home and taking something
  • Intentionally intercepting or using your private communications
  • Appropriating and using your voice or image while you are in a private place
  • Keeping your private life under observation by any means
  • Using your name, image, likeness, or voice for any purpose other than the “legitimate information of the public”
  • Using your correspondence, manuscripts, or personal documents

If your privacy is violated in this way resulting in physical, material, or psychological damages, you can sue the perpetrator. The catch is that lawsuits are costly and invasive and it would mean going public with the extent of the violation you experienced.

The laws in Canada regarding revenge porn and privacy are not perfect, but they’re there. In 2017, let’s protect ourselves and keep the scum of society in check.

2016 is ending and we can collectively agree it’s been a shitty year. Cops are spying on journalists, our Prime Minister has turned his back on the young people who elected him, comedians are being punished for their jokes, and icons from Prince to Bowie to Muhammad Ali to Carrie Fisher have left us. In the legal world it’s been an ongoing ugly parade and with the year FINALLY coming to an end, it’s time for a recap of some of the major legal issues affecting us this past year.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The ongoing crisis in Aleppo has led to tons of refugees fleeing Syria. Unlike the US where debates regarding the refugee crisis were fraught with concerns about terrorism and an emphasis on keeping victims of Aleppo out, the Trudeau government took the moral high ground and pledged to welcome twenty-five thousand Syrian refugees. The Canadian government ended up going above and beyond this pledge and have thus far taken in thirty-eight thousand seven hundred and thirteen Syrian refugees.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

On February 3, 2016, Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Canada’s behalf. Canada’s participation in the treaty was negotiated by the Harper government before its colossal defeat by the Liberals in 2015. Whether Parliament ratifies the agreement thus legally binding Canada remains to be seen.

Uber Crisis

Montreal taxi protest (photo Chris Zacchia)

Quebec cities were rife with cab drivers protesting Uber, a car service that is not bound by the ridiculous and expensive rules that must be obeyed by taxi drivers and company owners that specify everything from pricing and car specs to what the driver wears. In September 2016 Uber made a deal with the Quebec government which included Uber acquiring 300 taxi permits and obliging drivers to get a class 4C license and insurance. With the cab industry in Montreal already flooded, it remains to be seen whether this tentative deal will create peace between taxi companies and Uber.

Panama Papers

In April 2016 the decryption of the Panama Papers revealed the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to have helped many of the world’s wealthiest people hide their assets from governments. Those named included terrorists, CEOs, politicians, and athletes. Canadian tycoon and political wannabe Kevin O’Leary is dismissive of the papers, possibly because he too is hiding wealth from Canadian taxpayers for his own benefit.

Anti-Vaxxers and Naturopathic Remedies

David and Collet Stephan were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life for failing to get their son medical attention for bacterial meningitis. As the Stephans are anti-vaxxers distrustful of modern medicine, their 19-month old boy Ezekiel was instead treated with echinacea, garlic, onions, hot peppers and horseradish. By the time he was brought to a hospital it was too late and the boy died. David Stephan has since been sentenced to 4 months in prison while Collet to 3 months of house arrest. They have been ordered to bring their kids to a medical doctor once a year and a nurse every 3 months.

OQLF

Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David announced modifications to Quebec language laws that would force businesses with trademarked non-French names to add French to their signs. Though the proposal is clearly in retaliation for the government’s legal defeat against Best Buy in 2014, it remains to be seen whether the changes will go through in a province exhausted and fed up with language and cultural debates.

Ghomeshi Verdict

In May 2016 former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi signed a peace bond to settle a sexual assault trial. Though for many this is a slap on the wrist, his former victim Kathryn Borel celebrated the bond as a public acknowledgment of Ghomeshi’s guilt. The 12 month long bond guarantees Ghomeshi will go to prison should he violate its terms and does not limit the prosecution from going after him for other sexual assaults.

Mike Ward

Mike Ward (photo Cem Ertekin)

In July 2016 Montreal Comedian Mike Ward was ordered to pay $42 000 to a disabled kid and his mother for making fun of him in one of his jokes. The verdict, which Ward has sworn to appeal, has turned the Quebec Human Rights Commission from a means of social justice to one of censorship. No one has questioned why the kid went after Ward and not the bullies who used his joke to hurt him, but it’s likely due to Ward’s celebrity status and wealth.

Pitbull Ban

Following the death of a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman after she was mauled by a dog, the City of Montreal has adopted a ban on dangerous breeds. The ban is hugely unpopular and has resulted in protests, the latest being the SPCA’s refusal to take in dogs following the Quebec Court of Appeal’s reinstatement of the ban after the Superior Court overturned it.

STM Fines

On September 7, 2016 the Municipal Court of Montreal ruled that fines given by STM rent-a-cops to people unable to produce their transfer is unconstitutional. The STM has vowed to appeal the decision.

Judge Robin Camp

In November 2016, Judge Robin Camp was recommended for removal from the bench by the Canadian Judicial Council following an inquiry into his conduct during a rape trial. Though the judge promised to reform, his behavior demonstrated such contempt for victims of sexual assault the Council ruled no amount of sensitivity training would repair his damage to the judiciary’s reputation.

Seafood and Civil Liability

In May 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel ingested salmon at a bistro in Sherbrooke sending him into anaphylactic shock. He is now suing the restaurant and waiters for $415,000 though his negligence regarding his food allergy and rumours that he has tried to scam restaurants in the past make it unlikely he will get the full amount.

This past year has been full of legal debates that are as fascinating as they are numerous and outrageous. For every dispute brought before courts and councils we come closer to what we all strive for: a just society.

In 2017, let’s aim for just that.

Navigating holiday parties is tough for someone with poor impulse control such as myself. If I am told that I have three hours open bar I will take advantage of it. Three doubles and five shots later I am hugging a garbage can wondering where my beard is.

I wake up in my bed (thank god) with no bottoms, not even socks, and fully dressed on top, coat and all. Oh, there’s the beard, it was around my neck the whole time, right where it belongs. Is that lipstick or blood? God, I hope that’s red lipstick.

Nobody wants to be “that guy” at a holiday party. But that very guy is inside all of us just waiting for a few drops of alcohol to awaken his soul and activate party mode.

Drunk lesbian Santa is what makes Christmas beautiful. It’s not the children, it’s not the presents, it’s not the cheer or good will, it’s the wild and unabashed star on top of the tree that is the almost mythological drunk lesbian Santa.


I think about a lot of stuff around the holidays, missing my grandmothers, helping set up the tree. Just trying to hold it together when my family gets mad because I want to eat vegan, trying to be kind instead of combative. The holidays stress a lot of folks out. I try to deal with it by being numb and last minute.

I have not bought a single gift. Now I have like three days to shuffle around with all the last minute dads of the world to find those perfect morsels of gifts. Consumerism is crap, holidays are about celebrating and cherishing those you love right?

We have decided to throw a New Years Eve party this year instead of trying to deal with the let down of the bar scene. I want to get drunk and be safe, make sure all of my party people are safe too.

Here are 10 tips for throwing a kick ass holiday house party! Nobody wants to just be sitting around eating chips and dip listening to Bing Crosby. It’s also unrealistic to think that every house party is going to look like a scene from Animal House. You are in control of this party. The music, the food, the guests, the decorations, the venue, all of it.

  1. Invitees: The guest list is an important factor. Does everyone get along? Make sure to not be crazy like I am and accidentally get invite happy and spread your net too wide. Make sure you invite someone who can be a bouncer of sorts if things get out of control. Also invite someone who plans on being sober or mostly aware just in case there is a knock on the door from the cops or something else serious happens. Things can escalate very quickly, beware. Do you go with just the Facebook invite? Nah, invite some people in person, perhaps make a flyer or get some Lisa Frank Invitations and make people feel exclusive. Invite your neighbors so they don’t call the cops on you.
  2. Have Activities: Beer pong is always a winner, a deck of cards, or even some Cards Against Humanity. Nobody likes a boring party. These things should not be main attractions but rather backup plans. Make sure everyone is introduced. This way all of these friends of you and your roomies can come together and form new friendships. No babysitting of socially awkward friends.
  3. Hide All The Breakables: Turn your house into a kid friendly zone. Possibly cover everything in plastic like you are about to American Psycho the whole party. Put all the pets away, cats can easily escape when partygoers aren’t paying attention to the doors and dogs can be provoked by the drunks. Basically treat your animals like children, keep them safe and not afraid.
  4. Have Plenty of Room on the Dance Floor: Parties need stages. Each stage must have proper lighting for the goal. You need a dance floor (flashing lights, disco ball, fog machine optional), food and bar area well lit and accessible. And last but not least a stoner smoking den (very dimly lit) with lots of couch space and maybe some crazy triply cartoons playing in the background with no sound. Make sure the music is loud enough and on point, a mix of the classics and new cool stuff that fits the mood is necessary. Be mindful of changes in the crowd and feel of the party too so you can tweak the music to perfection. Everyone can be a DJ who has a laptop and some taste. KEEP THE MUSIC UPBEAT! Never ever let some depressing stuff pop in and be the Debbie Downer to your good vibes.
  5. No Zones: Block off all of the “no zones” so people aren’t trying to have sex in your roommates’ rooms. We are lucky that all of our bedrooms are upstairs so it is as easy as setting the bar up in front of the staircase.
    If that’s the party you are going for- orgy status that is- turn the whole place into a heart shaped mattress and make sure there are plenty of condoms around.
  6. Get a lot of Mixers: People will bring bottles of whiskey but forget the ginger ale. Equal opportunity drunk fest. BYOB means mostly bring your own booze, but with some exceptions. As a great host you should provide some libations. The more you have, consider having a donation jar or charging a small cover.
  7. Randos: Be careful of randos and underage drinking, this is very serious. If someone leaves your party and hurts someone or gets hurt, you are responsible too! Try to grab everyone’s keys, elect (and/or pay someone to be) a responsible key holder to call cabs for those who are too drunk to live but can’t spend the night. Perhaps the person who got the most fucked up at the last party and had to be babysat would be a great key holder.
  8. Food: Food selection should be diverse- something for everyone. Make sure the vegans are happy! I have gone to so many parties with just pizza and wings, the only vegan option being the celery and carrot platter, LAME.
  9. TP: Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper
  10. Clean Up: Prep for clean up. Set up trash receptacles and places to put recyclable empties to make clean up easier after the fact. Stock up breakfast food for the next day survivors (they will help you clean and you will feed them for it).

Nothing ever works out if you expect it to be perfect. Remember this is all supposed to be a fun celebration of love and debauchery. At the end of the day all of your rules and planning will go out the window, and that’s ok!

Finally, don’t be the most ratchet person at your party, everyone will remember.

On May 29, 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro in Sherbrooke, Quebec with his partner and ordered beef tartare. He told the waiter, Julien Vézina, that he had a seafood allergy and not to bring him any fish.

Canuel was brought a dish that allegedly looked like beef in the restaurant’s poor lighting and began to eat it. The dish he ate was actually salmon, and Canuel went into anaphylactic shock. He was brought to the hospital where he fell into a two day coma after suffering a heart attack as a result of his allergic reaction.

In the aftermath of the event, Canuel’s waiter was arrested for criminal negligence. Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions opted not to press charges, having decided that the evidence indicated it was not criminal negligence on the part of the waiter. On December 16, 2016 the CBC reported that Simon-Pierre Canuel intends to sue the waiters and owners of Tapageur Bistro for $415 000 for the physical and psychological damage he suffered as a result of the incident.

According to his lawyer, the incident made Canuel’s heart so weak he couldn’t exercise until July. He claims that he suffers from anxiety and sleeping problems and has developed a food phobia. The damages Canuel is claiming consists of $390 000 for himself and $25 000 for his partner who was present when the incident occurred.

In order to understand how this lawsuit will play out, we need to talk a little about how civil liability and lawsuits work in Quebec.

Simon-Pierre Canuel (image: CBC)

Civil liability is covered under the Quebec Civil Code. As per the Code, every person has to abide by the rules and practices of conduct so as not to cause injury to another person. Where the person fails to do so and causes injury to another by such a fault, they are bound to make reparations for the injury, be it physical, moral (psychological) or material.

In order to successfully sue someone, the plaintiff in a civil case has to prove a direct link between the damages they suffered and the fault, if any, of the person(s) they are suing. The burden of proof is not as severe in civil suits as it is in criminal cases.

In criminal cases, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, liability must be proven based on a balance of probabilities, meaning the court does not have to believe liability beyond a reasonable doubt, only that liability is more likely than not.

In order to get out of liability, the defendant has a few options. First, if the incident was a case of “force majeure”, meaning an unforeseeable inevitable or irresistible event like a lightning strike, the person is not liable. The defendant can also evade liability by proving they are not at fault or proving the plaintiff did not suffer any damages or greatly exaggerated the damages they did suffer.

The way the court decides on the defendant’s arguments is via the reasonable person test. The test is the asking of what precautions an average, reasonable person would have done in the same situation to avoid the damages.

Public opinion about Simon-Pierre Canuel’s case is divided and it’s easy to understand why.

The day Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro with his partner he, by his own admission, left his EpiPen – the first line of defense against a potentially fatal allergic reaction – in his car. Food Allergy Canada, an organization that educates, supports and advocates for the needs of people with potentially fatal food allergies said in an op ed piece in August 2016 that mistakes can happen and that leaving his EpiPen in the car was one such mistake. They push the classic guilt trip helicopter parent argument:

“What if it was you or your child?”

This argument does not work because Simon-Pierre Canuel is NOT a child. He is a 34 year old adult who has presumably lived with a potentially fatal food allergy for many years. A reasonable person would suspect any food he did not prepare or supervise the preparation of. A reasonable person with a potentially fatal food allergy would have kept their EpiPen on them at all times.

Canuel claims he could not tell the dish he was served was fish due to the restaurant’s poor lighting. Being unable to see a food item does not necessarily mean you cannot tell it’s something you’re allergic to.

Salmon and beef have very different textures and very different smells. All it would take to tell one from the other is to move the food around with a fork and/or smell it. A reasonable person would not have blindly tasted his food, and could have had his dinner guest taste it for him just to make sure it was safe.

Simon-Pierre Canuel by all accounts did none of those things and a reasonable adult would know that restaurants screw up orders all the time. The only thing Tapageur Bistro is guilty of is screwing up his order.

If the restaurant is indeed at fault for serving Canuel a dish that almost killed him, Canuel is equally responsible for not taking the reasonable precautions an individual with severe food allergies would have taken when dining out. Fortunately, civil liability law in Quebec allows liability to be shared with several people including the victim.

The fact that prosecutors chose not to go after the waiter suggests that there was no liability here, just another restaurant employee that accidentally messed up an order. If someone with severe allergies is allowed to make a mistake of this magnitude, restaurants should be given some leeway too.

Does Canuel have a chance of winning his lawsuit? Maybe, but he’s unlikely to get all the money he asked for.

That’s just unreasonable.

* Featured image: estrieplus.com

In the last few months the animal rights debate in Quebec has been dominated by Montreal’s proposed pit-bull ban. One side argued that animals are not dangerous if they are raised right, while people in favor claimed it was necessary to protect humans from dangerous dogs. With all the discourse about whether we can protect humans from animals, it’s time to talk about the laws that protect animals from us.

On December 8, 2016 the Quebec Court came to a unique decision. Over the course of ten years, the SPCA had seized four dogs from the Alain Marchand, a man in Outaouais. The dogs had been neglected, abused and malnourished.

Marchand was charged under Quebec’s Animal Health Protection Act and the court undoubtedly realized he could not be trusted with a dog and fined him eighteen hundred dollars but also, for the first time in Quebec legal history, banned him from owning animals. Criminal charges of animal cruelty against Marchand are soon to follow.

Quebec Animal Health Protection Act

The Quebec Animal Health Protection Act has the goal of ensuring “an appropriate level of animal health protection is maintained.” The law establishes standards of hygiene, care, and disease control of livestock and domestic animals.

Specific rules for dogs and cats are established in the Regulation Respecting the Safety and Welfare of Cats and Dogs, which was enacted to work in conjunction with the Animal Health Protection Act. Its violation can result in the penalties set out in the Act, which range from two hundred and fifty dollars to two thousand four hundred and fifty dollars for a natural person (first offense) and six hundred and twenty-five dollars to six thousand seventy five dollars for a legal person such as a business.

The Regulation establishes the standard of care for cats, dogs, and their hybrids. The rules set out not only cover the owners of pet shops, breeding operations and obedience schools, but also set standards that must be obeyed by individual pet owners.

Dog and cat owners have to provide food and drinking water for their animals. The water has to be clean and free of contaminants like urine, feces and kitty litter. Snow and ice don’t count as sources of drinking water.

The animals have to get their biological needs met as per their species, size, growth stage, age, level of physical activity, state of health, whether they are gestating or lactating, and as per their ability to adapt to different levels of heat or cold.

Dogs and cats have to have access to a rest area at all times that is clean, dry, comfortable, and large enough for the animal to be able to lie on its side with its legs extended. This rest area has to provide shelter from the elements that could risk the animal’s health or cause it stress. Such elements include bad weather, sun, drafts, loud noises, and harmful gases.

Image via WikiHow Creative Commons

If you have a dog you want to keep mostly outdoors, the regulation restricts what kinds of animals can be kept mostly outdoors and under what circumstances. Only animals whose specific structural features, age, health, coat and who have the ability to adapt to heat or cold in such a way as to be protected from weather conditions can be kept mostly outside.

If the owner or caretaker of the animal doesn’t know the adaptability level of the animal to be kept outdoors, they have to plan for a gradual acclimatization period. The animal has to have a sturdy shelter made of durable non-toxic materials of a decent size to allow it to keep warm and protect it from the weather.

The regulation also covers the rope or chain used to keep an animal tied up outside, as well as the collar an animal wears. The rope or chain cannot cause discomfort for the animal due to its weight. It cannot be liable to get stuck or shortened by wrapping itself around an object, and has to allow the animal to safely move around and reach its food and water. Collars are not allowed to hurt the animal or restrict its breathing.

Muzzled animals cannot be left unattended.

The Canadian Criminal Code covers the worst animal cruelty offenses, and unlike the Quebec law and regulation, the penalties are not just financial but can also include a prison sentence.

Criminal Animal Cruelty Offenses

There are three types of animal cruelty offenses in the Criminal Code.

The first is the act of Causing Unnecessary Suffering which includes willfully causing or permitting unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal, willfully giving an animal or bird poison or harmful drug or substance, and even getting money for promoting or arranging hunts where captive birds are liberated for the sole purpose of being shot. Penalties for this kind of offense can be up to five years in prison if you’re indicted or up to eighteen months in jail and/or a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars if you get a summary conviction.

The second type of animal cruelty offense is Causing Damage or Injury. This entails damaging animals while driving them through willful neglect, and willfully abandoning an animal or failing to provide food, water, shelter and care. This offense can result in up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of two thousand dollars and/or six months in jail.

For some kinds of these first two offenses there’s a legal presumption that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the person is presumed guilty, a reversal of the innocent-until-proven-guilty standard in criminal law.

The third type of offense is about cockpits and punishes the owner of a location used to hold cockfights. The penalty can be up to five years in prison or if a summary conviction, a ten thousand dollar fine and/or up to eighteen months in jail.

With all the talk about how humans need to be protected from animals, it’s time we look back at how to protect animals from humans. People can yell and write letters and picket, but dogs and cats can only scratch, bite, growl, bark or meow in order to be heard.

It’s time we remember that we can fight back better than they can and protect them for the vulnerable beings they are.

* Featured image: blacklemag.com Creative Commons

I’m a painter and a shaker. I am a cat watching shadows on the wall. Turning 30 at the Rise of the Apocalypse, the lead singer of a non existent band, a legend in my own mind.

Today I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to do anything with myself. I had a literal snow day yesterday, the kind kids dream of. I could have wrote a blog or cleaned my room and did none of the above. It was a two robe kind of day, bitter diamond cutter nipple cold house shaking wind and bizarre thundersnow.

The first blog I ever wrote for Forget the Box was about the infamous Knife Storm. It cut Buffalo in half, dumping on the south and nothing where I was. My city is famous for being buried in snow.

At the time I was seeing this cute bearded artist and he go stuck on the other side of the snow wall and ended up shacking up with some girl for a week. That should have been it. Another week later he was arrested in my car with her in the passenger seat.

I have never been so pissed off. I have the worst judgement. I met him by a bonfire at a music festival.

I have never understood how to be romantic, how to pursue someone, how to play it cool but show interest. I am insane, eternally 14, clueless about so much and misinformed about the remainder.

I always seem to say the wrong things, I take it too far, push the joke waaay farther then necessary. Awkward sauce. I feel like I was a puzzle piece that was dropped on the floor and then put in the wrong box and donated to a thrift store. I never quite fit. My life is a puzzle with one piece missing.

My roommate started doing a 1000 piecer the other day. It was a winter wonderland Christmas scene. She diligently worked on it all week. Every damn piece looks the same to me, all the colors seem to blur together. It juuussst doesn’t fit.

Puzzles have always frustrated me, but I know now that I need to learn how to be more patient and Zen when it comes to stuff like that. Do the outside and work inwards. Start with the parts that are easy. When completed it is sweet satisfaction.

At one point I started to help her and was encouraged when some things fit, the puzzle was already at like 87% completion, none of which I had helped on until this point. I quickly lost interest and just wanted to go get a drink before our favorite dive bar closed at 4am. So I took the remaining pieces and just piled them on top of the empty spaces. Exclaiming that we were done and deserved a treat, we went on to the bar to celebrate.

I stood there in the bar, a vision in my yellow dress with matching neon yellow hair. At one point there was a tall sexy man on either side of me, it was glorious. One I had kissed recently and the other was someone I have quietly crushed on for a bit (one of those people that seems so far out of my league). He swooped in and kissed me on the mouth. We danced. I felt like the queen of the ball. How could I chose between these two?

I don’t know what I want, forever confused. I used to like people because they liked me, I now know that it takes more than that to grab my attention. Feast or famine though, I ended up running into the dark cold night alone, cuddling with my sweet furry kitties, sobbing over my insecurities.

It’s hard for me to juggle the attention of multiple people. I am not used to the attention of one, let alone several. I am hesitant about polyamory.

I used to only fall for gay men, never attracted to the status quo. I love artists, musicians, writers, creative people who know how to express themselves, most likely full of internal torture just like me. I used to only desire tall men, but then shortly realized that tall guys only seemed to be into the shortest littlest girls in the world. I mean yes, it is cute to see a tiny person with a giant, and everyone is attracted to those they are attracted to, unapolegetically true, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

I love humans of ALL shapes and sizes, all genders and preferences too.  I see the world differently than when I was a kid, but I am still a giant seeking love. That’s all I want.

My dad wanted to take me Christmas shopping. I could think of NO THING that I wanted, no physical thing, I am not the little brat who wants a Barbie car anymore. I don’t want electronics or diamonds. I asked for storage so I can get my room in order and art supplies.

What I really want is for people to stop being racist, I want people to stop throwing out food and start caring about the hungry, I want love to spread like fire, I want the oppression felt worldwide to end. I know I have privilege, but what can I do to use it for the good of all? Spread it out between us all. We distract ourselves with the pursuit of sex and the magic of the holidays.

I am Bah-humbugging out here! It makes me sick to think of all the greed this time of year, hoards of undereducated drones playing with cellphones and tablets. Get your hands dirty and learn about diversity.

We all look at the headlines (or lack there of) and post a sad emogi on Facebook, we do nothing to change the world. We know how many shopping days till Christmas but play dumb about Aleppo, or Standing Rock, or police taking blankets from the homeless.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who I have kissed or what I do to pass the time, the only thing that matters is compassion and living life to its full potential. It is easy to get wrapped up in yourself. Take the time to open your eyes and focus on the world at large. Give your energy to righteous causes, fight for those who need a hand, see beauty even when some pieces are missing.

Ho Ho Ho… Celebrate your freedom!

Here are the top 10 reasons (in no particular order) why it’s better to be single during the holidaze.

10. You don’t have to choose whose family to go see on the holidays. You also do not have to deal with awkward family encounters.

9. You don’t have to buy anyone a present. You can buy something extra special for your mom, your cat, your bestie, or *gasp* yourself! No stress for buying that “perfect” gift for a significant or insignificant other. You also don’t have to pretend you like whatever thoughtless crap they bought you in return.

8. Kissing random people under the mistletoe. Get a piece yourself and use it as a conversation starter. Also bring breath mints and make sure there is no food in your teeth.

7. You can meet someone at a holiday party. I met my ex at a Christmas eve party and my life changed forever, in retrospect maybe not the best, but that relationship helped form who I am today. You really never know who you are going to meet. Be open.

6. You actually get to spend quality time catching up with the family. No weirdness trying to entertain your beau. Enjoy the friends and family you have in your life, love them, celebrate their importance in your life! I know I am blessed.

5. Take your own holiday portrait with your cats. Break out the ugly sweater and make your friends a personalized Christmas card they will never (ever) forget.

4. More champagne, wine, whiskey, and spiked nog for you! Sometimes caring (for yourself) is NOT sharing.

3. Get dressed up, FOR YOU! Everything sparkles this time of year. Light up your party fab wardrobe. Don’t ever regret the impossible rhinestone shoes. Glamour is everything, you deserve it.

2. Nobody is going to ask you when you are getting married or having babies! Bringing even a new person home can be the ultimate turn off when your drunk uncle goes off on a tangent or your mom grills away.

1. I know this may sound heartless-but hey. Lonely people around the holidays = lots of hook up opportunities. Take advantage of their sadness. It’s like Wedding Crashers when he started crashing funerals. Capitalize on those horny sad sexy people. Loneliness is amplified during the holidaze, cruising bars, holiday parties, and dating aps may bring you surprise singles bliss this holiday season.

Its getting bitter, nipple hard cold out there and the media is telling us to bundle up and pair off. We have been inundated with Christmas paraphanalia since before Halloween.

It is so shoved down our throats that I can’t take it. The idea of hearing Christmas music in October makes me want to kill.

Due to the suffocating holiday joy, I prefer to be the Bah Humbug she grinch. My shriveled, black heart still beats. I am single. I get sad like everyone else, but you can’t let it consume or cripple you with insecurities.

Even as I write this I have tears in my eyes, there are certain people I would like to decorate a tree with. But it’s ok. There is something beautiful about having no expectations. I spend most of my days off naked, making art, with my cats to keep me warm.

All I want for Christmas is for it to be over and be my birthday already. Commercially romanticized bullshit, cuddling in front of the fireplace, hand in hand ice skating. Blah blah blah, the holidays are stressful without the added pressure of making someone else happy.

I get sweaty easy and have weak ankles. Like every other hopeless romantic I start imagining all of the holiday love gone by, and honestly, it was disappointing.

I have been dumped right before holidays, and that seems like the worst, but is actually awesome because spending time with your family and not being alone is better than wallowing in your own self despair. For those of us who are terminally single, sick and tired of family questioning, why are you still single? Well, I am picky.

My standards have risen, I need more than just a mindless fuckboy. I want a person that is going to love me fully. Hopefully vegan, political, artistic, and kind.

I want a person to make me a better person, to compliment what completes me, to enrich the world with compassion and unbridled passion. Throw me up against the fridge, have me because you must, because I was the one you have been looking for.

That’s all I want. I will settle for nothing less. Why live inside of a snow globe when you can have the real thing? Why spoon someone when you can fill your spoon with a tub of vegan ice cream? You are in charge. Nobody can tell you what to wear, where to go, how much to drink, or anything because you are free.

Bake something and eat it all yourself. Make your own blanket fort to hibernate in. You can take this time to work on yourself, or be a lazy spud and go into the Netflix black hole of winter. If you want to make yourself better for you, then start right now.

Being single does not mean you are inadequate or unloveable. Sure it’s cold this time of year, go on some random dates and warm up with new conversation. Take this in stride and make 2017 the best year of your life.

You do not need a partner to justify you. You do not need a man or woman to feel happy or fulfilled. Self actualization and care is so important, it is something often overlooked when people become codependent in relationships.

New goals, brighter attitudes toward being single are needed. I know that I get sad every New Years that I don’t get a “special kiss”, does anyone? Only a very few get that fairytale romance, they might not even know they have it.

Nostalgia, sometimes for something you have never had, or maybe have only seen in movies, is a killer. You feel that warm and fuzzy sort of way, everything is “supposed” to fit. Don’t waste time on playing the game or being sad, be happy with what you have, write your own fairytale.

You are not broken, have hope, feel good, bask in the glory that is you.

So you may have seen that Time Magazine named Donald Trump its 2016 Person of the Year. This announcement was greeted with vocal condemnation and almost equally as vocal reminders that this isn’t an endorsement but rather an acknowledgement of the cultural and political impact Trump had in the US and around the world.

Given the fact that Time was going primarily on mainstream media narrative, Trump winning makes perfect sense. He did dominate the news coverage in 2016. If you have a problem with the result, then you should have a problem with the way the corporate media filter operates.

Instead of complaining, though, let’s simply take away that filter and see what we get. Forget the Box is going to name its own Person of the Year for 2016!

Like Time, we’re looking for the individual or group of connected individuals that had the biggest impact on our culture in the past year. Unlike Time, we’re not limiting our view of cultural impact to what is represented in the mainstream press. Social and indie media play just as big a role in our decision.

We’re giving everyone a chance to vote and are starting with some likely choices. As we’re based in Montreal, some are local and Canadian. We’ve also included Trump as a choice to be fair. If your choice is not on the list, simply state it in the comments below and we’ll add it to the options.

We do reserve the right to reject suggestions. We also reserve the right to make an editorial decision and give Person of the Year to someone other than the top vote getter, while still acknowledging who got the most votes. We probably won’t do that, but we will if the winner is Harambe (I mean, seriously, internet).

Anyways, here’s the poll, you have a week to vote. Then we’ll proudly announce FTB’s 2016 Person of the Year:

Who should be FTB's Person of the Year?

  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (42%, 13 Votes)
  • Bernie Sanders (26%, 8 Votes)
  • Gord Downie (10%, 3 Votes)
  • Donald Trump (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Anarchopanda (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Black Lives Matter (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Amy Goodman (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Nigel Farage (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Barack Obama (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Yoshua Bengio (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Hillary Clinton (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jeremy Corbyn (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Denis Coderre (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Justin Trudeau (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 31

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On November 29, 2016, the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) made the recommendation women across Canada were hoping for. They recommended that Justice Robin Camp, the Alberta judge who acquitted a rapist in 2015 after making comments to the victim during the trial such as “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” be removed from office. In their inquiry report, the CJC found that Camp had made comments that suggested an aversion to laws enacted to protect the vulnerable and promote equality, and that the damage he’d done to people’s faith in our judicial system could not be fixed by sensitivity training and promises to reform after the fact.

This article, however, is not about Robin Camp. There is no disputing that Camp’s conduct during this trial revealed him to be wholly unfit to be a judge in a society where gender equality is constitutionally guaranteed and that a recommendation for removal from the bench is him getting off light in the eyes of many victims of sexual assault.

This article is about the judiciary, the Canadian Judicial Council, and the process by which Canadians hold federal judges accountable for their behavior on the bench.

Removing a Judge

One of the tenets of democracy is the existence of an independent judiciary. For the judicial system to work it must act independently of the influences of the executive and legislative branches of government, as embodied in Canada by the Prime Minister and his cabinet and the House of Commons and Senate.

The way our founders attempted to ensure this independence was by putting rules in our constitution that require that judges be appointed not elected, and once appointed, they get to keep their position “on good behavior” until the age of retirement.

Before the creation of the Canadian Judicial Council in 1971, the only way to get a federally appointed judge removed from the bench was to have the government recommend his removal to the House of Commons and Senate. That all changed in the late sixties with the Leo Landreville scandal.

Leo Landreville was a former Sudbury mayor who’d been appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario. While he was mayor, he got involved in some shady stock dealings that came to light while he was a judge and led to criminal charges including corruption. The ensuing scandal prompted Lester B. Pearson to recommend his removal from the bench to Parliament in 1967, and was one of the events to spark the creation of the CJC.

The Canadian Judicial Council

The Canadian Judicial Council was created with the goal of promoting efficiency, uniformity, and accountability in Canada’s Judicial System. It consists of thirty-nine members and is led by the Chief Justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, currently the Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin. The Council meets twice a year and while their primary responsibility is to set policies and create tools that allow the judicial system to work better, it has the added task of investigating complaints against judges.

The Council can only investigate complaints against federally appointed judges. They cannot investigate or overturn a judge’s decision in a case. To get a judge’s decision overturned, you have to go through the appeals courts. What the CJC can do is investigate a judge’s conduct, but to get them to do that, you have to follow the complaint process.

As per the Judges Act, the CJC must start an inquiry of a federal judge upon request by the federal justice minister or the attorney general of a given province. The Council can also choose to investigate any other complaints or allegations made against a judge. In the case of Robin Camp, for example, the complaint was initially made by four law professors.

Unlike many other government applications, a complaint to the CJC does not require specific forms, there is no application fee and no deadline. All you do is submit a complaint in writing about a named federally-appointed judge about their conduct and not their decision(s) via snail mail.

The Canadian Judicial Council then reviews the complaint and where necessary, conducts an inquiry and releases a report. In the report they can recommend that the judge remain on the bench, be removed from the bench, be granted paid leave, or if the judge resigns before the age of mandatory retirement, the Council can recommend they continue to get an annuity.

If the Council recommends the judge’s removal, the Federal government can then go to the House of Commons and Senate within fifteen days of the removal recommendation and publicly remove the person from office. Federal judges can only be removed for the following reasons:

  • Age or infirmity
  • Having been guilty of misconduct
  • Having failed in the due execution of that office
  • Having been placed, by his or her conduct or otherwise, in a position incompatible with the due execution of that office

Justice Camp was recommended for removal from the bench for misconduct and the fact that it happened during a rape trial amplified the magnitude of his actions. Rape trials are widely and justifiably believed to be tainted by bias and prejudice so the appearance of impartiality and fairness in the presiding judge is extremely important.

A judge who seems to favor one side over the other from the get-go damages society’s faith in the fairness of our judicial system, and a lack of faith in the law and the people who interpret and enforce it will ultimately lead to vigilantism and anarchy.

The Canadian Judicial Council is an important check on federal judges who may take for granted that their jobs are secure in order to ensure their independence. It’s important but it’s not perfect.

Since its creation only four judges have been recommended for removal by the Council in recognition that judges need freedom to criticize the law, talk to witnesses and lawyers, and conduct proceedings in order to make sure justice is served.

Neda Topaloski, one of the FEMEN activists who disturbed the 2015 Montreal Grand Prix, had her second and final day in court today. As per FEMEN’s usual tactics, Topalski protested bare-chested during the high profile event, and in a national first, she is now facing criminal charges for it.

“We’re in Canada and there’s no precedent for such cases. Our bodies are our banners for our values and ideas. It’s the first time there is an attempt to criminalize them,” explained Topaloski in a phone interview with FTB on Thursday morning. According to her, it’s the state of democracy and freedom in Canada that is at stake in this trial.

Topaloski was arrested on June 4th 2015, after she appeared topless in front of one of the showcased cars on Crescent Street and yelled “Montreal is not a brothel!”

She was referring to the sexual tourism that doubles or triples every time the high profile Grand Prix is organised in Montreal. She was initially charged on four counts, but the charges of indecency and exhibitionism were dropped last week. The crown is thus going forward with charges of mischief and disturbing the peace.

Topaloski claims FEMEN’s actions are a non-violent form of political expression and should not be criminalized. “Seeing activism as disturbance of peace is absolutely perverse, because expression doesn’t trouble peace, violence troubles peace,” she argued.

She was also accused of mischief. The crown alleges she dented the hood of the car she was leaning on during the stunt. The activist says that this is “absolutely impossible.” She notes that the Grand Prix is always full of pictures of women sitting on cars for publicity purposes and that none of them faced such accusations.

The Grand Prix: “A powerful lobby”

This is the first time a FEMEN protest has resulted in criminal charges in Canada, despite several public actions of the same sort. Topaloski believes that she is only being prosecuted this time because She managed to “sully the image of the Grand Prix.”

“It bothers this powerful lobby and it is because of their pressure that we are charged this time, but not the time that we were in the Canadian parliament, nor the time we were at the National Assembly in Quebec.”

In April 2015, Neda Topaloski interrupted a press conference about Law 20 at the National Assembly. She irrupted topless on stage to protest against the new law’s failure to prioritize free and accessible abortion.  She had done a similar act on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest C-51 just a few weeks earlier.

Allegations of excessive use of force

On Wednesday, Topaloski’s lawyer immediately moved to have all the charges thrown on the grounds that the arrest was unlawful. She argued that the Grand Prix’s private security made an excessive use of force.

“It was more than an arrest; I was dragged on the floor, still topless, they pulled my hair out…” recalls Topaloski. She highlights that their behaviour was wildly different from what she has seen from police officers in similar situations.

“[The security guards] were trying to prove that they were the guys in control of the situation and of the value of women. They used that situation to abuse, physically and violently.”

A video of the arrest was submitted to the court as proof. Although she is not sure of this move’s potential success, Topaloski explained that it is important for her to “shed light on those who perpetuate violence rather than those who protest for equality and are repressed and targeted by violence because of it.”

The court will probably not reach a verdict today, but Topaloski says she trusts that “common sense” and “constitutional rights” will prevail: “I have the law and the constitution on my side. Therefore, I hope that the judge will be able to recognize this.”

 

Its funny to me that when I am trying to get laid it never happens. I want things to be perfect, I want candlelit romance with fine wine and the sweetest leaf.

If I clean my room, dye my hair, take a shower, gussy myself up, and go out crusin’ lone wolf style it is 100% certainty that I will come home alone, drunk, and disappointed. The nights that I am absolutely irresistible are the nights that my crotch smells like yesterday’s left out cat food, I am wearing a frumpy sweater, no makeup, no inhibitions, possibly bleeding, definitely not looking any kinda way.

Saturday I went out on a whim and never expected to even talk to someone, let alone take them back to my car like the true dirt grub I am. This boy was cute as a button. It was the same night as The World’s Largest Disco, so it wasn’t weird that he was wearing polyester bell bottoms. He looked so young and eager to please. Must have been 21, but dangerously close to it.

He told me that I was his favorite Stripteaser, that he loved how I took chances and was politically charged in my work. Ok, tell me more. He said that he had been coming to the show every week for a few months but was too scared to talk to me. ME?

At this point he had my full attention. We had an incredible conversation about art and the state of politics and the world in general. I was in awe of how much he was in awe of me. It was bizarre for this beautiful boy to be such a fan girl.

The bar closed and he was shocked when I asked him what he was doing after. His friends called him both a “savage” and a “pimp” as they watched us walk away. We were just going to my car to light one up and then started making out.

I forgot for a second that I didn’t brush my teeth that day and had just peed in an ally. It was excellent. He made me feel like a teenager. We kissed, he touched me, I touched him. He kept accidentally bumping into the horn, it was cute.

The cherry on top of this story is when he was fingering me and Nickelback came on the radio, I couldn’t help but laugh. Almost 30 years old and I am being finger banged in my car to Nickleback.

What is this life I live? I wasn’t going to have sex with him in my car, so I eventually bid him farewell. With a hickey on my neck and my heart racing I saw him disappear into the night. Of course I said “See you next Tuesday.”

I feel like an idiot for letting him go without even getting his last name or phone number. I was swept up in the moment. I wonder if I will ever see him again?

I need to be more of an “act now” kind of girl, stop second guessing everything. I let him walk off because my room was a disaster and I was embarrassed. I let him walk off because I didn’t shower that day or feel worthy of his sweetness and affection. He wanted to stay, but I pushed him away.

He did not show up at The Stripteasers show. Well that’s that. For my show I even dressed as Chad (the lead singer of Nickelback). I had done Nickelback about a year ago as a joke and still had the costume. My roommate joked “Bro, you know what this means? You have a NICKELBACK routine!”

It was incredible, I gave every person who tipped me a dollar a nickel back. The bar phone rang an hour later and it was a man calling saying that his girlfriend forgot her nickel and wanted it back.

“It was special because the performer gave it to her” I ran to my car to dig for a nickel that would be special enough to be cherished forever. When I gave it to her later she did not recognize me out of drag.

buffalonickels
I am often paralyzed by my own self doubt, I think that someone so beautiful would never ever be interested in me. I see my flaws like roadblocks with flares shooting off of them. I often feel like the only person in the world who is alone.

I know thats just crazy, but the feeling is real. I feel old and inadequate. Like by now I should be successful. I mean, it is all how you measure success, I guess.

I don’t make much money but I am happy, I love my job, it is stress free and wonderful. I love burlesque, I love the time I spend traveling, I love so much about my life, it would just be nice to share it with someone.

sexychadThe times I have fallen for people it has been hard, always one sided, just me not seeing the obvious, just me getting my head smashed, never their fault, always mine for assuming I will get what I want. I am an only child spoiled girl who also has white privilege and middle class money, so I am comfortable, I am safe.

I was born into middle-class America. I have all the makings of a cookie cutter success, I did well in school and got a college degree. I am beautiful, symmetrical, I have great teeth because my parents got me braces. I am an artist. I am a fucking catch. Single, sleeping alone with my crust skin and my lovely cats, surrounded by piles of costumes.

I get laid when I least expect it, so love will be the same. Love is inconvenient and imperfect, it has no rhyme or reason. You cannot control love. People fall in and out of our lives at random.

I never understood the people who had it all planned out: in 5 years I will be married with a child and a house with a white picket fence, there’s a mini van in the driveway and a golden retriever in the yard. These people will settle for the first available mate, the first person who is willing to also be tied to that plan.

I am insane, I could never plan my life like that, I don’t even know what I want, let alone how to find it. I will never settle, I will never be unhappy or partially happy. I will know it when I see it. I will know who I love when I meet them.

Was it the guy in my car that I sent off into the night? Was it that beautiful girl in Montreal with the pink hair and glasses? Was it the one that got away? It is most likely someone I have never met, but maybe seen in passing, maybe they know me, I am just oblivious.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding female lawyers lately. First, there was the rumour that Hillary Clinton mocked the twelve year old rape victim of a man she was charged with defending during her days working at a legal aid clinic in 1975. The second was with the announcement that Jian Ghomeshi’s attorney Marie Henein was planning on speaking at Canadian schools.

Female attorneys are judged more harshly than male lawyers for the cases they take, and it has to do with the perception of why they got into the profession. Male lawyers are usually believed to have gone into law for money and power, whereas female lawyers are perceived to have gone into it to save the world and protect the innocent.

It should be noted that the rumour that Clinton mocked a rape victim turned out to be just that, a rumour. The story was circulated by racist misogynist now president-elect and right wing groups supporting him. When fact checking organizations like Politifact looked into it, it was revealed that recording was of Hillary Clinton mocking the Arkansas crime lab for accidentally destroying DNA evidence linking her client to the crime and NOT the victim. For many people it does not matter who she was mocking because like Henein, she is a woman who defended a rapist.

Women who defend rapists are vilified as being traitors to their sex. It does not make sense to many that a woman could defend someone who violated another, despite the fact that male lawyers defend rapists all the time regardless of whether the victims were male or female. What people seem to forget is that female lawyers are bound by the same rules as their male counterparts so it’s high time we looked at what those rules actually are.

The rules governing the behavior of lawyers vary from province to province and country to country, but in liberal democracies they are all based on the same principles of rule of law and an accused’s right to a fair trial and defense.

In Quebec, lawyers are bound by many laws including An Act Respecting the Barreau du Quebec, the Code of Professions, and the Code of Professional Conduct of Lawyers which they have to study as part of their preparation for the Bar exam. The Code of Professional Conduct sets out some of the basic rules of practice for lawyers towards their clients, the public, and with regards to the administration of justice. Here are some of the rules lawyers have to follow as per the latter Code.

The Code defines a lawyer’s client as any person or organization that a lawyer provides or undertakes to provide professional services for.

Lawyers are bound by law to act for their clients with integrity, competence, loyalty, confidentiality, impartiality, diligence, and prudence.

Attorneys cannot engage in their professional activities if they are in a state or under conditions that would compromise the quality of their services. That means that if, for example, an attorney knows he makes bad decisions after a few drinks, he is legally bound not to act as an attorney after having those drinks.

A lawyer has to act in their client’s best interests at all times. In doing so, they must act in compliance with the rule of law and in a way as to establish and maintain a relationship of trust with the client.

Lawyers also have to respect a client or prospective client’s right to choose their counsel, and cannot provoke disputes in order to get their business.

Most importantly to the perception of attorneys, it should be noted that lawyers are allowed to agree to act for a client no matter what their opinion on said client’s guilt or liability is. One could argue that a lawyer’s decision to defend a client whose innocence they doubt is what makes the difference between the bloodsuckers and the heroes, but it’s not if you consider that our legal system is based on the notion of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and it’s certainly not if you believe everyone has the right to the best defense possible.

It should also be noted that there are many things lawyers are not allowed to do.

Lawyers in Quebec have to avoid all methods and attitudes that would give the profession “a profit-seeking character” by making it look like they became an attorney just to get rich.

Though lawyers have to support and respect the rule of law, they are allowed to criticize and contest legal provisions or their interpretations and applications for a good reason. They are not allowed to help, advise, encourage, or facilitate their clients to engage in behavior they know or SHOULD know is unlawful or fraudulent. Lawyers are also forbidden from concealing or not disclosing what the law obliges them to disclose.

In light of all the controversial cases before the courts, people should not take the silence of a lawyer as a sign of their client’s guilt. The law says that lawyers in Quebec are not allowed to make public statements or communicate information to the media about a matter that is pending before the courts “if the lawyer knows or should know that the information or statements could adversely affect a tribunal’s authority or prejudice a party’s right to a fair trial or hearing.”

The perception of lawyers in our society ranges from bloodsucker to hero and there are many good examples that justify both sets of beliefs. Regardless of what you think of the legal profession, we owe it to our society not to use the a person’s gender identity as the gauge whether a lawyer is acting in the greater good or selling it out for money.

At the end of the day what matters is whether they offered their clients the best possible legal representation while respecting and obeying the very laws they studied.

* Featured image: Courtroom sketch of Marie Henein defending Jian Ghomeshi